Holtz: Big East logjam 'uncommon' to see
TAMPA -- Normally, opening a conference season with two losses can put an end to a football team's motivation of playing for a league championship.
Not so for USF -- or really anyone in the Big East -- as the league standings have a logjam with seven teams all with two conference losses behind Pittsburgh, which is 3-0 but has three of its four remaining games on the road.
"There are a lot of scenarios that can happen -- if this, then this, but when you look at the Big East right now, it's wide-open," Holtz said after Sunday's practice. "It's still anybody's ballgame at this point. I think everybody, every team in the Big East right now, I'm sure mathematically, can win this thing. That's very uncommon this late in the year, but I think it shows the great parity and balance in the league. "
None of the league's eight teams is bowl-eligible yet -- USF and four other teams need just one more win to be eligible, and all eight teams still have a shot at a postseason appearance, which makes for more on the line than other conferences where teams are out of contention.
"It's unique," Holtz said. "I don't know that I've ever been around, this late, the scenario we're sitting here looking at. There's eight teams going 'If we do this and this and this, this happens for us.' It creates a lot of excitement. A lot of times you see football teams in the latter half of the year start to cash it in -- there's not a lot to play for at this point. We're out of the conference race, bowl game is out of reach, etc., let's start playing the young guys, get ready for next season."
INJURY UPDATE: Holtz said that quarterback B.J. Daniels was back and "full go" at practice after wearing a boot on his right foot Thursday as he was limited by turf toe. Running backs Mo Plancher and Demetris Murray practiced as they nurse knee injuries, though two starters were held out with boots on their injured ankles -- left tackle Jamar Bass and safety Jerrell Young. Young said he expects to play Saturday against Louisville.
HELD OUT: Holtz said that true freshman running back Marcus Shaw isn't practicing with the team as he takes time to improve his work in the classroom -- Shaw, a contributor on most of USF's special-teams units, has been held out of the last two games, and will continue to until his academics improve.
"He's fallen behind academically," Holtz said. "I think he's a very talented young man who can help this football team. ... He needs to learn now that there's a term 'student-athlete' and it's not professional. He has to handle his classroom. He's had a great attitude with it all. He's working extremely hard and we're seeing some progress in the classroom. As I told him, when his grades get back to a certain level, we'll talk about him getting on the field again. Until then, I'm not going to take the longterm risk of playing him right now."